Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Why of the Why Not

“Curiosity is idle only to those who fail to realize that it may be a very rare and indispensable thing” – James Harvey Robinson


A breathy timid voice asks, “Why?” The mother looks down, rubbing her thumb along the petite ridge of hand in hers and regards her child’s inquisitive question. She smiles at the dance of wonder and awe that alights in her daughter’s eyes and tries to answer the question, knowing in her heart what ever answer she gives won’t satisfy.

Quick on the tail of her reply escapes another, “Why?” in her daughters singsong voice reminiscent of the tinkling melody of wind chimes swayed by a breeze and the dance begins again; over and over until either out of frustration or genuine alarm the mother realizing she has no more answers retorts, “Because I said so.”

In that moment the little girl's innocence becomes overshadowed on her minuscule features by a look of abject seriousness, outweighing her young age. No she’s not satisfied. There is more to the why and she wants her answer. She can’t move beyond until she understands and with purpose belying her age, she goes in search of yet another adult, another big human to question – why?

Do you remember that point in your life when you came to understand some questions would never truly be given a satisfactory answer? The possibility perhaps – there was no answer. We should, it’s a rite of passage of growing up and questioning everything and anything in our pursuit of knowledge and our relentless need to fill our curious natures. My question then is? When did you stop asking why?

Our adult selves tend to go with the flow, to accept things as they are rarely questioning the reasoning for what is. Until a child’s timid question charges the air demanding, “Why?”

I was never satisfied with not knowing the answer and went in pursuit of some form of adequate response. There had to be an answer that could fill the want in my child long enough before the next set of why(s) quickly resurfaced in curiosity. As an adult...I forget to ask myself why. Why did it matter so much to feed her curiosity - because it fed mine.

These days when I write, I see my writing with a child’s innocent curiosity. I believe I have most of the answers for my characters, but what if I don’t. What if for some reason what unfolds in the storyline doesn’t make sense to anyone at all? Can I trust that whomever is reading will go in pursuit of their own answers or do I try to answer the impossible and worry perhaps they will get frustrated and give up so easily at trying to comprehend - as they may tire with a child’s endless chorus of why?

Maybe if you look closely enough the answer is there, hidden in the depths of the long ago curious child inside of you. As a writer I can easily say, “Why not,” Why not live, why not die (from a characters point of view), why not smile, why not cry. For every why – if you remember that childlike wonder and gullible belief, there is a why not.

Life is complicated. Sometimes there really are no answers. For the ones we can find to fill our curiosity, those not readily available answers – I hope you never grow too old or wise to stop asking, “Why?” 

Maybe that’s why I’m a writer. I’ve never stopped being curious and investigating the possibilities of life. My characters get to live all those myriad answers. I can only hope by the end of reading me, I have not fully answered your questions and leave you asking why. I’ll consider it a gift if I do. - Indigo

Picture from here


  1. So true! I remember my mom answering, "I don't know. Let's see if we can find out." We had this encyclopedia set & we'd look up all kinds of stuff. I loved it. In fact I spent hours with those books.

    And when even the encyclopedia didn't have the answer, we knew we had a really good question. I try to do the same for both my kids and the kids in my classroom. Searching for the why in life is an excellent pursuit!

  2. The pursuit of knowledge and answers is one of the things that makes us ultimately human :o)

  3. I really like this post. I asked "why" for years and years about all the bad things that have happened to me, never really got any answers except for the proverbial, "why not?" Today that is good enough and all those things I asked "why" about, hopefully some good will come out of it, in some ways it already has.

  4. I feel there are "nebulous" questions I'm not capable of knowing the answer to. In some ways, those gray areas of life are what keeps it mysterious and wondrous. I'm OK with not knowing, but then I was never a deep thinker.

  5. Why... because I don't think I will ever tire of asking 'why' about things.

    I am thinking that in this entry, you are asking about the time you first gained awareness to ask 'why' in a broader scope. Maybe to get a universal understanding of why you were chosen last in pickup football games or the girl who didn't get asked to dance by a 'cute' boy at parties.

    The age of that kind of self awarness begin in my early adolescence and it hasn't stop since...

  6. We should never ever stop asking this question. This question keeps us vital and young and living.

    I wrote a post a while back about childish curiosity and the wonderful word that is 'why.'

    Thanks for another great piece of truth and you.

  7. I always seek answers to everything I don't always get them but enjoy asking, even if it gives me something to think about another day.

    My mother was a great reader and always tols us to go look it up then we would discuss, if she had time.

    Hope you are well


  8. "Why"
    "Because I said so."

    Hardly an answer. I stopped asking early. I love the way you look at it though and feel too, that writing is a way I find the answers as well as ask the questions. I can create an answer where none truly exists.

  9. Very thoughful, skilled post! My mother was always too tired or depressed to answer any questions from me, so I grew up thinking everything is a mystery. (and it IS!)
    Been meaning to ask you if you've read the How to Write a Novel in 30 Days book? I've got a copy, but haven't really looked at it.


  10. Yes,asking questions comes naturally for us writers.
    The answers .. maybe not so much..
    but it's the meat in between I like best..eventually it will lead to either and answer-or acceptance.

    great post usual ;)

  11. I remember really appreciating it as a kid when adults answered that they didn't know. Kids KNOW when their parents don't know, so lying to them isn't comforting; in fact, it's really confusing.

    I love Jemi's mom's answer - "Let's see if we can find out." Let the curiosity of children be contagious and inspiring :)

  12. Sometimes I have to tell my daughter to stop asking me why. It's so hard to answer sometimes! So as authors, I don't think you need to. Let the reader ask themselves that question.

  13. You are one amazing writer, I think I'll be here quite a lot :)

  14. I have asked Why? about the things that I studied for as long as I can remember. It's the whys that I would ask when I felt sorry for myself that I have given up. Those are the whys such as Why did I marry an alcoholic? Why can't I help her? Why am I miserable? These are the self-pitying moans and groans of someone who is stuck. I'm glad to have moved past those to seek a solution and not just ask the question.

  15. I think this really is part of the pursuit of writing, to try and find answers to perhaps unanswerable questions. It's a form of exploration. And maybe there are many different potential answers to the same question.

    (By the way, I have a friend who ended up calling her child the "why monster" after she grew tired of so many whys. It's true, sometimes the question can seem reflexive, but I've also found that it helps to turn it around, to see what the child comes up with. Oh, and I have never called my own child a why monster, but I can understand her frustration. Because sometimes there isn't an answer. Or sometimes you've answered the same question 127 times.)

  16. Very insightful post. I think the answer to my "why" questions that I hated the most, was "I don't know".

  17. This post brought up some memories for me. I was a chatterbox as a child and, I imagine, quite an annoyance to all in my vicinity. I know that "why" was one of the many, many words that came form my mouth on a daily basis.

    I was silenced at the age of 16. My stream of innocent, youthful chatter was shuttered within a matter of months as I found and was quickly engulfed by my addictions. As I crawled further into the belly of the beast, I began to care less about what was going on around me (the "whys") and became obsessed with what was going on WITH me. I didn't care why it was happening. I just knew that I was drowning.

    As a parent to a 5 and 7 year old, I try to hold on to their innocence, knowing that it could very likely disappear before my very eyes. I know that my own parents woke up one day and no longer recognized the child living in their own home.

    Thank you for this.

  18. I had to stop asking why. It seemed at one time seeking the "answers" was making me a little crazy. Now I am in a more peaceful place of just acceptance and forgivness.

  19. i will always ask why.
    i think it's a part of who we are, friend.

  20. Holy cow, I don't know how I ever missed seeing your new blog. I am thrilled that I found you again....I'm now an official follower, though, I've never really left you, if you know what i mean.
    hugs and more hugs,

  21. You have made me miss the small voiced " why's" that used to be in my life today. Wonderful and thought provoking post. I need to begin asking why more often I think!


Thank you for giving my silence a voice, my muse your words, and taking the time to discover my prose.